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The Evolution of Plumage Brightness in Birds is Related to Extrapair Paternity

A. P. Moller and T. R. Birkhead
Evolution
Vol. 48, No. 4 (Aug., 1994), pp. 1089-1100
DOI: 10.2307/2410369
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2410369
Page Count: 12
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The Evolution of Plumage Brightness in Birds is Related to Extrapair Paternity
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Abstract

A positive association between plumage brightness of male birds and the degree of polygyny may be the result of sexual selection. Although most birds have a socially monogamous mating system, recent paternity analyses show that many offspring are fathered by nonmates. Extrapair paternity arises from extrapair copulations which are frequently initiated by females. Not all females will be able to mate with a male of the preferred phenotype, because of the mating decisions of earlier paired females; extrapair copulations may be a means for females to adjust their precopulation mate choice. We use two comparative analyses (standardized linear contrasts and pairwise comparisons between closely related taxa) to test the idea that male plumage brightness is related to extrapair paternity. Brightness of male plumage and sexual dimorphism in brightness were positively associated with high levels of extrapair paternity, even when potentially confounding variables were controlled statistically. This association between male brightness and extrapair paternity was considerably stronger than the association between male brightness and the degree of polygyny. Cuckoldry thus forms an important component of sexual selection in birds.

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